Friday, September 13, 2013

Playground Review: Saratoga Creek Park (West SJ)



I've always known that a park was tucked behind the Westgate West shopping center (home of Yogurtland, Orchard Supply, TJ's, etc.) alongside Lawrence Expressway, but I'd never taken the time to go look for it. Today, needing to tire out a squirmy Toddler X before a trip to Sprouts, I decided to search it out. After a couple of wrong turns, which brought me to the park but nowhere near the playground (the park is elongated, stretched against the Lawrence sound wall), I finally discovered the small playground parking lot at the end of Hoyet Drive (cross street is Cordelia Avenue).

Here's what I found at the park:

Pros
  • Very pleasant appearance, with vast green lawns and plenty of mature trees for shade (some on the playground at various times of the day, a lot around the perimeter of the park). Though it's tucked against the Lawrence Expressway sound wall, it has a peaceful, neighborhood park ambience. 
  • Bathrooms, picnic tables and benches (several in shade), convenient parking in small lot.  
  • Separate toddler and big kid areas, with the toddler area containing two baby swings, a small play structure, a large sandbox and a spring see saw. 
  • Sandbox features are fantastic, with a tower, a propeller, and various table/sifter/funnel features. It appears to be a sandbox where toys are left for the next visitor, just in case you forget to pack your own. (Bottom left picture)
  • Toddler play structure has fun, toddler-appropriate climbing wall feature. (Middle left picture) 
  • Clientele was friendly and pleasant; playground felt bustling but not crowded. Lots of dog walkers because of the dog park a bit down the way. 
  • Big kid play structure is bright and modern, and older kids seemed to be having a blast. (Top picture)

Cons
  • I was slightly bewildered by the toddler play structure. As mentioned above, it has a very nice climbing wall for toddlers, but beyond that is not all that toddler friendly. It is small and low to the ground, but the big netting feature and the ladders to nowhere are spaced too large for most toddlers to reach. Also, the slide is currently closed, blocked by a piece of plywood. Not much to hold a toddler's attention. 
  • The big kid structure is nice, but too mature for Toddler X to play on by himself. Even with me trailing behind him, there were lots of features that he couldn't use at all. 
  • The playground is not fenced.
  • The ground surface is primarily tanbark, my least favorite of all surfaces (or at least of the major three that you see at playgrounds). 
Overall, a very pleasant park and a delightful place to go for a picnic play date, but not the best toddler playground around (indeed, not the best within two miles! Rainbow Park is not far away and has a more entertaining toddler structure and a water spigot feature, and Kevin Moran Park in Saratoga is just a bit further and fantastic.). I have a feeling this will be a favorite in three or four years, though, so keep it in mind. 

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